Tuesday, December 15, 2009

E-book rights wars are on!

by Miriam

Continuing the theme of Jim’s post yesterday, the e-book rights wars are on! Clearly Markus Dohle’s announcement that Random House has a retroactive claim on electronic rights that weren’t in existence when certain of their contracts were signed (as well as your grandma’s china and your first-born), has raised quite a stir in some circles--authors, agents, people who don’t like legal documents manipulated to mean whatever a powerful corporation decides they mean...

As PW reports, the Authors Guild is, rightly, miffed about this power play by one of the industry’s biggest players, not just because of the immediate implication to RH authors but because of the precedent such a move may set.

My sense is that Mr. Dohle’s move will not have legal legs to stand on and will engender a great deal of ill will within the publishing community. What do you all think?


  1. I think Techdirt did a rather nice job in describing the legs with which Random House has to stand on here. According to their math, it's about zero.

    Jane Friedman's statements this morning at the eBook World Summit were a bit incorrect when she referenced the Rosetta Books and Random House court case. Random House initially lost their first court case, where they tried to have an injunction. So, they appealed and the case was moved to a higher court. It was during that second case when Random House managed to reach an agreement with Rosetta Books.

    So, the precedent has already been set. However, both sides were able to save face due to the sequel. It would appear that Random House would like to think that first court case never actually happened. Call it revisionist hindsight.

    Either way, I don't see this turning out too terribly well for Random House. They'll lose in court and in public opinion. But hey, at least they're interested in eBooks.

    The Techdirt blog post can be found here: http://techdirt.com/articles/20091213/1946477327.shtml

  2. If I were an RH author, I be peckin' my agent's ear real hard 'bout now and makin' it clear I wanna keep my E rights!

    Haste yee back ;-)

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  4. Oh, come now. These authors are just whining because they didn't play the e-book revolution as well as RH.
    They were stupid for not making sure that they had the most common clause of pre-1994 book contracts: "Just in case some new way of distributing books comes along in the near future, I as the author keep the rights to said (currently non existent) medium."

    Oh, but wait. There did tend to be that little catch-all phrase somewhere in there about "all other rights not specifically discussed are reserved by the author."
    This is a dirty move. First Harlequin, now Random House.
    Next week, I predict that St. Martin's will one-up them both and create a program that finds unfinished novels on author's hard-drives and (for a small fee) transfers them directly into e-book reader libraries, charging the owner's credit card for the book they didn't know they just aquired.
    Okay, maybe that's a bit paranoid.
    -Colin Hill

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